Austin, Lovie [Calhoun, Cora]
- John L., Jr. Clark
(b Chattanooga, TN, Sept 19, 1887; d Chicago, IL, July 10, 1972). American jazz and blues pianist, composer, bandleader, arranger, and music director. After studying at Roger Williams University (Nashville) and Knoxville College, she performed on the TOBA circuit and toured accompanying her second husband Buster Austin. In the early 1920s Austin moved to Chicago, where for almost 20 years she directed shows for touring stage performers as the music director and bandleader at the Monogram and Joyland theaters. From 1923 to 1926 she also led the house band at Paramount Records, accompanying blues singers and making instrumental recordings featuring such jazz musicians as Tommy Ladnier, Al Wynn, Johnny Dodds, and Jimmy O’Bryant. After working in a defense plant during World War II, Austin returned to music, working in dancing schools. Her final recording, in 1961 for Riverside Records, was a reunion with her friend Alberta Hunter and several musicians she had previously worked with in Chicago.
As an African American woman respected not only for her organizational and arranging abilities but also for her piano playing, Austin was remarkable for her time. Mary Lou Williams cited her as a prime influence and singers such as Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, and Hunter profited by her direction in the studio as well as her ability to transcribe their original songs and get them copyrighted and published. Her own songs “Downhearted Blues” (composed with Hunter and recorded by Hunter and Bessie Smith) and “Bleeding Heart Blues” (recorded by Smith) are excellent examples of classic blues.
- S. Placksin: American Women in Jazz: 1900 to the Present: their Words, Lives, and Music (New York, 1982, London, 1985 as Jazzwomen, 1900 to the Present: their Words, Lives, and Music)
- L. Dahl: Stormy Weather: the Music and Lives of a Century of Jazz Women (New York, 1984)